This summer, as he prepared for his first season as a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, Chris Mason decided he needed a new look for the new role. So he went to work brainstorming some fresh ideas for the most recognizable piece of goaltending equipment – the mask.
A photo gallery of Mason's new mask
Though others – dating back to Clint Benedict in 1930 – had experimented with face protection, Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Jacques Plante is credited with wearing the first goaltender’s mask, unveiling it in a Nov. 1, 1959 contest after New York Ranger Andy Bathgate nailed him with a shot in the face. Since then, netminders have been able to express themselves through the type of mask, or lack thereof, they have worn.
Gary Cheever’s ever-popular “stitches” mask featured some of the first artwork ever to appear on the equipment, and others soon caught on. New York Rangers’ goalie Gilles Gratton wore one of the first “cat masks,” which has been recreated countless times, and more recently, Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour and Curtis “Cujo” Joseph have become synonymous with the masks they wear.
Mason’s newest piece was designed by artist Steve Nash of Eye Candy Air in Woodbridge, Ontario. Nash, who works exclusively with custom mask and helmet painting, counts Philadelphia's Martin Biron, Carolina’s Cam Ward and Boston’s Tim Thomas as his clients.
For the mask, Mason decided to go with a vintage Nashville theme sprinkled with his own personal flare. When he received it on July 9, he was ecstatic.
“Instead of designing it myself, I pulled my ideas together and asked the artist to put it together,” he said. “When he was done, he sent me a rough copy before he actually painted the mask. I loved it and literally couldn’t wait to get it. When it came, it totally exceeded my expectations. The people I worked with are very thorough and I just couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
The primary logos on either side of the helmet are the “Tower” logos that graced the shoulders of Predator jerseys from 1998-2004. Mason said he went with the older secondary logo because it actually shows a piece of Nashville, and he want to show his support for the city.
“I went with that one because of the situation with the team fighting for Nashville. I just wanted to stay with that theme, while representing Nashville with my mask.”
Similar to his mask from 2006-07, Mason went with a family crest on the chin. But instead drawing one himself, he put it in the hands of Nash, giving him the idea and the style of shield he wanted. The crest includes images of a dog, a horse and a dragon, representing the birth years of Mason, his wife and his one-year-old daughter.
Front and center stands the Mason’s favorite character from the video game series God of War. Kratos, an original creation of game designer David Jaffe, is based on a Greek mythological warrior who served as a captain in the Spartan army.
Mason stuck with the Spartan-warrior theme for the backplate as well, garnishing it with an image of King Leonidas leading his Spartan troops into battle, as seen in the recent film 300.
“I thought 300 was a pretty incredible movie – probably one of my favorites and he was one of my favorite characters of all-time,” Mason said. “So I thought the way the Spartans build up the wall in the movie is kind of what I try to do in the goal so it was a way to empower myself like that.”
Also on the back are his last name, situated between two flags – a Canadian flag, and a flag to honor his daughter. The black flag has Old English “A” and “M” for Avery Mason with a picture of a rose between them, since Rose is her middle name.
So when Mason takes to the ice this year, his first as a bona fide number-one netminder, he will have plenty of company in the crease, not only from family, but from stuff legends are made of.